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Keynote Address by Shri V. Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs at 4th Protectors of Emigrants Conference (September 10, 2021)

September 10, 2021

Secretary (CPV & OIA) Sanjay Bhattacharya ji,
AS (OIA-2) Ms. Manika Jain,
JS (OE & PGE) Shri Armstrong Changsan,
JS (CPV) Shri Devesh Uttam,
PoEs,
Colleagues,

Namaskaram.
A very good morning to you all.


It is my pleasure to interact with you all at this 4th PoE Conference. I am happy to note that this year’s date is chosen to coincide with the day when the Emigration Act of 1983 was enacted.

India has come a long way since then. The nature and types of employment available abroad, as also the means of recruitment, have undergone changes.

Friends,

The pandemic has adversely affected the world and given rise to new challenges. Depressed economic outlook and restrictive international travel have greatly reduced the outflow of migrants from India. There are, of course, opportunities also, and it is the right time to prepare for the opportunities and challenges that are ahead of us in a world that is cautiously returning back to normalcy.

As a nation, we have worked together to deal with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pace and coverage of Covid19 vaccination is an achievement for all of us. As we speak, more than 720 Million doses of vaccines have been administered. The success of Vande Bharat Mission in bringing back our countrymen from foreign lands is another example. The rebound of our economic growth as reflected in the first quarter of 2021 is a testimony to our resolve in strengthening the economic front.

In today’s POE conference, ECR passport holders or blue collar workers who form a large and vulnerable portion of the emigration outflow from India, is the main focus. The current Covid19 environment requires us to be more receptive and understanding to not only facilitate their emigration but also provide them the best possible protection and welfare.

Most countries have imposed temporary travel restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19, disrupting international labour migration flows. This situation has given rise to both challenges and opportunities.

Challenges relate to the question of return, reintegration, question of employability, loss of wages and savings, and lack of demand due to sluggish economic activity in existing labour markets are in front of us.

Markets in GCC countries have been adversely affected especially in construction, oil and gas, retail and tourism sectors leading to a large number of returnees.

An important issue is the return of workers who have reached during the pandemic. Government is committed on the matter. The issue has been taken up in high level meetings. Our Embassies and Consulates are actively pursuing this matter with host Governments. The Government remains engaged with to effectively address issues including emigration related through bilateral consultation mechanisms.

Friends,

As you are aware, Government launched the SWADES (Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support) initiative for Indian nationals returning under the Vande Bharat Mission. This is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Ministry of External Affairs which aims to create a database of the returning Indian nationals based on their skill sets and experience. The information collected via the skills card has been used to facilitate placement opportunities by integrating with Skill India’s ASEEM (Aatmanirbhar Skilled Employee Employer Mapping) portal.

Opportunities have also arisen from these challenges. These challenges have driven a reassessment of data collection strategies, the need to devise new plans for skill mapping, exploring alternate avenues for skilling of migrants, leveraging the knowledge base of migrants and a look-out for opportunities in new destination countries.

Friends,

We are working on diversifying our bilateral engagements on manpower and mobility. Earlier this year, India and Japan signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on Specified Skilled Workers which would provide skilled workers from India an opportunity to work in the Japanese industrial and service sector in 14 select sectors. We signed an MOU with the UK on Mobility and Migration Partnership. Similar such agreement was signed with Kuwait recently. Recently, the Cabinet has approved skilled manpower mobility between India and Portugal. We are working towards adding more countries to the list and expanding the opportunities for our migrants to seek safe and legal work opportunities. POEs have important role to play in informing our youth and workers about these new destinations and opportunities.

PoEs must take the initiative to constantly engage with the Ministry, Indian Missions and Posts abroad, State Governments, Industry bodies such as CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM, State RAs, PDOT centres, private RAs etc so that opportunities of potential destination countries for our youth are gainfully utilized.

The Gulf region is a major destination for our expatriates. We have continuously engaged with the leadership of the Gulf countries on COVID-19 related cooperation. The emphasis has been to alleviate problems faced by the Indian community in the Gulf due to the pandemic.

We have negotiated Air Bubble arrangements with UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. Several lakhs of people have since travelled to the Gulf countries for taking up jobs, and for business, to meet family members, etc.

The existence of e-Migrate, a unique online platform, which integrates PoE Offices, Passport offices, Indian Missions, Bureau of Immigration and others regulating overseas employment shows that we were ahead of the time and well-prepared for a pandemic affected environment. The important role of Government welfare schemes like Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Yojana, Pre-Departure Orientation Training and Indian Community Welfare Fund play in equipping the emigrant with effective tools to deal with the challenges of working in a foreign land cannot be overemphasized. The efforts to update and refine these schemes and the e-Migrate platform should continue.

Friends,

Despite our concerted efforts, the exploitation, cheating and illegal emigration or human trafficking continues. There is a need for all of you to brainstorm today to identify the causes and come up with solutions to effectively deal with these challenges. The new Emigration Bill 2021 will provide legislative scope for framing of rules and regulations to deal with these issues.

As we embark on Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, further smoothening of emigration process and effective utilization of emigrant welfare programmes and schemes would be a true celebration.

Let me conclude by wishing you all successful discussions and deliberations ahead.

Thank you!
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